What Christmas means to Kathy

Kathy sent a letter to a friend last week, revealing how it feels to have spent so many Christmases incarcerated and what the day means to her. We thought you’d like to read her moving words …

Christmas no longer holds the magic for me that it once did.

Being of Christian faith, with a cross hanging around my neck and knowing the true meaning of Christmas, doesn’t bring me the comfort it should.

For me, Christmas is a time of supreme loneliness that is so soul felt it’s hard not to be pulled into the pit of despair that some around me have succumbed to.

Others take the stubborn enjoy-it route, hanging onto all the old customs and memories of Christmases past and the rites that are involved – present giving, card making, best wishes galore …

Decorations are handmade, since even tinsel or commercially bought decorations are no longer allowed here.

We redesign or re-cook our regular food to trick ourselves that we are all enjoying a Christmas feast. Lollies and sweet concoctions are cobbled together.

Brief phone calls are made on Christmas morning – we are allocated just six minutes to be part of our family and friends’ day.

Occasionally, there are “Secret Santa” gifts, though the gesture is disregarded if someone doesn’t like their fellow inmate enough to spend $2 on them.

Smiles, laughs, hugs and best wishes are bestowed … many are not sincere, but it sounds good for a few hours. It’s the one day out of 365 that we all get along and civility rules.

This either works well, creating a makeshift family away from your family, or we all separate and the day is done by 4pm.

My Christmas wishes and heartfelt thoughts are usually extremely selective, I don’t bestow them unless they are truly meant.

I think of all my wonderful friends and family out there, missing them even more, lamenting my many, many missed Christmas celebrations.

If I send a card or Christmas wish, it’s only to my nearest and dearest out there in the world that I’m patiently waiting to re-enter. I dream of when I’ll get to celebrate – truly celebrate – with people of my choosing and share my love with those who have so wonderfully supported me all these years.

There is a television in my cell, so I spend the weeks before Christmas watching festive advertisements like the rest of the world. I’m awed by all the shopping, drool over the foods and think “oh, how cute and gorgeous” when I see the excited kids.

Christmas is for them, it always has been. I’m mesmerised by their innocence and gusto for life; their wonder and awe of future possible.

After missing 16 Christmases, I have no doubt I’ll be like a big kid myself when I finally enjoy one outside these four walls.

I have missed the stress of shopping, preparations, hot stoves, washing up, paper everywhere, even decorating the tree … I will never complain about those tasks again.

I may even take myself to a church service to celebrate my basic faith.

I would never,  ever share my mixed feelings towards Christmas with those inside here who try so hard to keep their celebratory vibes going. For some, it eases the pain and loneliness of being away from loved ones … If it makes the day better for them, I am all for it.

So I smile, laugh and contribute as much as I can tolerate. And then I go off quietly and say to myself … OK, another day over, another year done, my countdown continues … 

Bless my friends – I feel honoured to have such special people in my life. I thank God, if he is listening, for all the good, wonderful human beings I have met and known … Christmas always reminds me of that.

Christmas means … what … for me? Another day. And one Christmas closer to when I have the chance to truly celebrate and share in the love and joy of that day.

One day …

Kathy would love to receive Christmas cards and messages. You can send them to her at this address:

Kathleen Folbigg

LMB 130

Silverwater NSW 1811


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